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Gambling/Gaming Takes a Bet on Sports Betting

As David Weinberg, staff writer for Press of Atlantic City learned from Phillip Brown: “We bet every week, but we never win. I got really close to hitting it big one time. I bet all 15 games, and if I had hit all 15, I would have won $100,000. I won 14 games, and I tied on the Redskins-Ravens game. The spread was three points, and the Redskins won by three in overtime. Unfortunately, a tie counts as a loss in this. Just to get that close was pretty exciting. That’s enough to keep you coming back” (emphasis added). And that is what keeps people playing-gaming-gambling wherever opportunity presents itself. The above occurred at Dover Downs, one of three casinos in Delaware.

But in 2010 Delaware allowed 31 restaurants, bars and nightclubs to offer the same sports lottery cards for NFL games. These sports lottery cards generated $24.2 million - $18.9 from the casinos alone. And the casinos had no qualms about allowing non-casinos to enter this field. As Ed Suter, CEO of Dover Downs explained: “casino sports books cater to a different sort of gambler than those who would stop at a sports bar to place a wager. Seventy percent of our business comes from out of state . . . The people that are coming to visit Dover Downs are not going to stop at a grocery store to bet on the NFL, they’re going to do it at our place.”

And since the sports betting, which is limited to the NFL and horse racing, is having no discernible impact on casino revenues. Suter finds the “sports book to be a place for customers to watch NFL games while taking a break from playing blackjack, craps or poker.”

Since sports betting is limited in this fashion, currently, it also reduces the likelihood of abuse or the need of treatment for addiction. As one patron described his first time: “The first time I ever bet here, I put $5 on 10 teams. I had no idea what I was doing, but I won all 10 games and wound up with $4,000. I celebrated by buying three of us tickets to the Eagles-Cowboys game . . . that year. But what it really meant was that I could keep betting on games for two more years without having to worry if I lost.” As long as the bets are small, once the game is over, that’s it. No one bets on games that are decided! But in poker, craps or blackjack there is always “just one more!”

For now sports betting is lucrative but small in Delaware. For now it is limited to the NFL and horse racing. But, as Vegas goes for the Gambling-Gaming industry, so too Delaware and other states with strong Gaming industries will want to expand to baseball, basketball, college sports, etc. Then it will become a year-round industry. But only the House will win.


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